I’ll always remember my first introduction to this album. There I was, sitting in a field, waiting for one of my favourite bands of all time to take to the stage at the annual Reading Festival; things were difficult for various reasons. My friends had ditched me 3 hours previously in favour of alcohol, and had failed to appear when we’d arranged to meet. Things in Ireland were breaking down all around me, I couldn’t contact anyone because my phone wouldn’t work abroad and I was feeling as lonely as you possibly can while surrounded by thousands of people in a field. “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” began blaring over the speakers – the booming bass opening was both startlingly peculiar and beautifully familiar in equal measure. And I broke down. The song was repeated 3 times, as though as a way of faith, but more likely a technical difficulty. And that’s pretty much everything you need to know about this album.
If you are a fan of Bon Iver, 22, A Million will be exactly what you imagined it would be, except with instruments are replaced by computers. This album feels as though someone heard previous Bon Iver projects and tried to remake it with synthesizers .The themes of finding one’s self, the constant links to religion and affirmation & celebration of all things bleak are all present and accounted for. You know from the very first bar of the first song what you are about to witness. The album starts off very well, with the opening song “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” beautifully setting the picture of heartbreak, with Justin Vernon’s layered vocals pulling the song seamlessly along. “715 – CR∑∑KS” is very similar to the track “Woods” from their “Blood Bank” EP. The album ebbs and flows, faces a bit of a lull after five songs, with “666 ʇ” featuring a dramatic electronic breakdown, but the emotion in Vernon’s voice never fails to make you contemplate all aspects of your life in the way only he can. In what is his most experimental album yet, it’s the familiar that will bring you back again and again.